February 14, 2017
Open Letter: Will David Boren distance himself from hate speech? Is it true no public funds were used for Belafonte visit?
NOTE: On February 14, 2017, OCPA President Jonathan Small sent the following letter and public records request to the office of David Boren and the University of Oklahoma’s Open Records Office.
Dear President Boren:
Last week, you personally lauded and hosted Harry Belafonte for multiple events at the University of Oklahoma. Even after OCPA pointed out that Belafonte has labeled the Trump administration ‘the Fourth Reich’ (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/01/18/harry-belafonte-donald-trump/96712420/) and referred to black Republicans and conservatives as race traitors and house slaves, you failed to take the opportunity to distance yourself from such hateful speech. Instead, it seems you only doubled down on your support of Belafonte and his war on black conservatives.
As a leader, an educator, and a public servant, your behavior is shameful. I fear for the safety and academic freedom of minority students at OU who think like I do.
You have dismissed criticism of the Belafonte visit by claiming it was paid for by private gifts. As a public official who oversees the spending of hundreds of millions of dollars annually in government funds, I insist that you explain how government funds were not used at OU to promote Belefonte’s ideological agenda and attacks against blacks who disagree with him.
In fact, Belafonte’s visit was promoted by OU’s public affairs staff, the school newspaper, print advertisements, electronic media, and other staff resources. OU’s own newspaper, in an advertisement, says that the event was hosted by the University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences and African and African American Studies. The event was held in a public building, in the Paul F. Sharp Concert Hall at the Catlett Music Center. Participants were advised to get more information from the University’s Public Affairs office at what appears to be a government phone number, 405-325-3784 and government email ( email@example.com).
Oklahoma taxpayers and OU donors deserve to know whether it is true that all costs of the Belafonte visit were paid for by private funds, and so I am submitting the attached public records request to the University to determine whether your characterizations are accurate. To the extent private funds were in fact used, this only raises the question of whether the OU Foundation endorses Belafonte’s suggestion that a majority of Oklahoma voters are akin to Nazis and that black conservatives should be labeled race traitors or house slaves?
The University of Oklahoma recently launched a "bias hotline" for students and faculty to report expressions of ideas on campus that they find upsetting or offensive. I ask you, finally, to consider whether your own crusade against "hate speech" is simply a lazy way to push your ideological agenda at the expense of students, donors, and Oklahoma taxpayers.
Submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
I hereby request all documents related to the following:
· The use of facilities at the Catlett Music Center to host Harry Belafonte in February 2017.
· The costs and who paid the costs of all public and private OU events or classes featuring Harry Belafonte in February 2017.
· Agreements to pay or payments made to Harry Belafonte or companies or institutions associated with Belafonte that were related to his visit to the OU campus in February 2017.
· Emails to or from OU President David Boren or any OU staff member in the Office of the President or Office of Public Affairs office from January 1, 2017, to February 13, 2017, that refer to any of the following: Harry Belafonte, Donald Trump, Jonathan Small, OCPA, or Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. (Please search and provide documents that include either the full name or only the last name of the persons on this list.)
Please contact me if you believe there are ways to narrow the scope of this request so that I can obtain the public records I need while minimizing costs to your office.
Thank you, Jonathan Small